30th Street Station : The Emergence of 30th Street Station

In 1933, due to the rising population in Philadelphia and popularity of the train system in the United States, the Pennsylvania Railroad and the City of Philadelphia worked together on a plan for city improvements. The idea was to create a better center city that moved people more efficiently and making it feel new. Planners looked to west of the Schuylkill to become a hub with a train station and post office. Already existing was the West Philadelphia Station that was built in 1903. With the traffic of trains growing, a necessary construction plan had begun in 1927 for a new station. This was to replace a smaller West Philadelphia Station. The West Philadelphia Station would be in service until 1931 and 30th Street Station would be almost fully operational in 1933.

The need for a new main train station in Philadelphia stemmed from the lack of efficiency of the Broad Street Station. Frank Furness had created that station as an end terminal for Pennsylvania Railroad commuter trains going to Center City Philadelphia. This route proved ineffective as the City’s population rose in the early 1900s. Trains going into Broad Street had to back in, to get out. This created clutter. It also slowed trains by nearly 30 extra minutes. The need for a new station was necessary and 30th Street was the City’s answer.

When completed, 30th Street Station became the largest railroad station in Philadelphia. It included 16 tracks and electrification. These features allowed trains to pass beneath the Station without exposing passengers to soot as steam engines of earlier times had. With 30th Street Station almost in service, the Pennsylvania Railroad Company had the almost completion of the three main railroads in Philadelphia. Each were named 30th street Station, Suburban Station, and the North Philadelphia station. They accomplished this work in just two years at the cost of nearly $42 million. Now in Philadelphia “trains from all divisions can be through routed and avoid delays and inconveniences to the company and public handing through trains of stubs like Broad Street station” (Temple 12).

30th Street Station was one of the most complex projects Philadelphia had ever seen. Tunneling and bridging the Schuylkill River proved difficult. Most demanding was compensating for vibrations in office buildings. Vibrations was one of the primary aspects when constructing this building. It had an elaborate blueprint, imitating Greek architecture. The exterior was marble with a granite trim. The inside had ten octagonal chandeliers that were 18 feet long. These were hanging from a red and gold ceiling. The roof was flat with the ability to hold aircraft. In a 1982 project, it was considered as a heliport spot for the city. The electrification process for the Philadelphia stations had made the Pennsylvania Railroad expand its electric rails. From New York to Washington D.C. operations were now conducted in a new way.

On December 12th 1933, the station was opened fully to trains and passengers. Overall, the construction of 30th Street Station was successful with its timely opening. 30th and the new Suburban Station open just three years apart. Suburban Station is located on the corner of John F. Kennedy Blvd. and 16th street. It served as the station to city hall and center city. With bigger size and better location. it prompted efficiency and gave an optimistic outlook into the City’s evolving future.

Because of the Great Depression and World War II, 30th Street Station was not completely operational until 1956. The ten tracks going toward the city and the southern elevation track took over two decades to go into service. By this time, Penn Central and the Pennsylvania Railroad had declined. They lost money for the first time in 1946. 30th Street Station did not see its rail service resurge until the founding of Amtrak in 1971.


  • Duffy, Edward W. Philadelphia: A Railroad History. Philadelphia: Camino Books, 2013.
  • Temple, Edward Brinton. Philadelphia's New Passenger Terminal: Address Before the Engineers' Club of Philadelphia, November 16, 1926. [Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Railroad, 1926.
  • The Philadelphia Improvements. Bryn Mawr, Pa.: The Chapter, 1987.




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